Magic: the Puzzling - Puzzle Within a Puzzle!

Posted in Feature on December 13, 2004

By Jeff Till

At its most fundamental level the game of Magic is ultimately just one large puzzle made up of several smaller puzzles. Which are the correct pieces to use for deck construction? In what way do I need to use my cards to turn these pieces into a winning game? And because of that nature, Magic (like chess and other great games) lends itself well to puzzle creation.

One of my favorite kinds of Magic puzzles are those that Mark Rosewater originally put together in a Duelist magazine series called "Magic: the Puzzling." The idea is to look at a given Magic scenario and find a way to win, even if it is a bit tricky. While these types of puzzles are interesting (and educational), Scott Johns and I felt that we needed to find a way to go above and beyond that level for Puzzle Week. After all, Magic itself is a puzzle made up of smaller puzzles, not just one simple problem.

So, without further ado, I present you with a puzzle within a puzzle. To solve this week's Feature Article, you must first determine which cards you are playing with, and then determine how to use those cards to win the game (though note that the game being played may be of use in figuring out some of the clues). One hint: remember that this is an Extended game when considering which cards you think may be the answers to the following questions. Have fun taking on as many of these as you find enjoyable, and if you get them all good luck on the final puzzle – here we go!

The Puzzle

You are playing a match of Extended with your opponent, Scott. You have been racing up to this point, but Scott's sideboard tech, CARD 6, threatens to kill you in short order. After drawing CARD 11 for the turn, though, things are looking up. Your goal is to win this turn.

Scott (4 life)

In Play:

  • 1 CARD 3
  • 1 CARD 4
  • 1 CARD 5
  • 1 CARD 6
  • 3 CARD 7 (tapped)
  • 1 CARD 2 (tapped)

No relevant cards in hand / graveyard.

You (2 life)

In Play:

  • 1 CARD 8
  • 1 CARD 9 (imprinted with Mana Leak)
  • 3 CARD 1
  • 1 CARD 10

In Hand:

  • CARD 11
  • CARD 12
  • CARD 13
  • CARD 15


  • 3 CARD 1

Other: Removed From Game / Sideboard:

  • CARD 14
  • CARD 16
  • CARD 17
  • CARD 18

Card Clues

Example Clue:

CARD 141
A) Color
The first card, alphabetically, in Homelands.
B) A word in the card title
Electric, Rule, Water

The solution to (A) is Abbey Gargoyles, which is a white card, so CARD 141 is a white card.

The solution to (B) is Slide (Electric Slide, Slide Rule, Water Slide), so CARD 141 has ‘Slide' in its title.

Therefore, CARD 141 is a white card with Slide in its title. The only such card is Astral Slide.


The most common land word in Beta card titles.


The card that appears in the most Magic expansions.


A) Power / Toughness

A non-attacking Helm of Obedience enchanted with Maggot Therapy, Weakness, Animate Artifact, Holy Strength, Tahngarth's Rage, and Foul Presence

B) Mana Cost

Same as Card 4

C) Set

Same as Card 17


A) A word in the card title

Assassin, Alarm, Cannon

B) Another word in the card title

Take one word from what comes next in this series, and then remove the suffix:

Fear, Surprise, Ruthless Efficiency


Tutor, Feast, Reminder, Monolith…


A) Colored mana symbols in mana cost (ie: the non-numeric part of the mana cost)

What is the last card in this series (not the next card)?

Veteran Bodyguard, Kasimir the Lone Wolf, Moss Monster, Craw Wurm

B) Set

What is the next card in this series?

Cobalt Golem, Iron Will, Mangara's Blessing


A) A word in the card title

The next card in this series:

Death Pulse, Venomous Vines, Nostalgic Dreams, Face of Fear

B) Card Type

Unscramble: Hedge Rats


A) Mana Cost

A 1+*/2 creature

B) Power/Toughness

Which card doesn't belong?

Atog, Barbary Apes, Orcish Cannoneers, Walking Dead, Wild Jhovall


A) Converted Mana Cost

One of the following: Timber Wolves, Arcbound Ravager, Deep Spawn, or Teeka's Dragon

CARD 10:

A) Artist

Same as Card 3 and Card 4

CARD 11:

A) Card type and mana cost

Same as Card 16

B) A word in the card title

Chaos Orb is to Orcish Paratroopers and Pointy Finger of Doom as Ring of Ma'ruf is to ?

CARD 12:

Yes: ____ Storm (some have a space between, some don't) and Wall of _____

No: Blister, Nether

CARD 13:

A) Set

Which one of these cards is not needed to combine for a 1st turn win?

Malachite Golem, Channel, Rust Elemental, Black Lotus, Concordant Crossroads, Eater of Days, Clockwork Beast

B) A word in the card title

Donato Giancola, Kevin Dobler, Dan Frazier

CARD 14:

A) Artist

Blaze is to Disintegrate as Counterspell is to ?

B) Mana Cost

Disintegrate is to Blaze as Dissipate is to ?

CARD 15:

A) Colored mana symbols in mana cost

You just killed your opponent with a Fireball for 3 during your upkeep. What non-artifact card allowed this to happen?

B) Card type, set, and converted mana cost

Which card doesn't belong?

All Hallow's Eve, Circle of Protection: Shadow, Orcish Artillery, Serendib Efreet

CARD 16:

A) A word in the card title

Breach, Flair, Vapors, Vault

B) Artist

One of the following: Circle of Protection: Blue, Circle of Protection: Red, Circle of Protection: White, or Circle of Protection: Green

CARD 17:

A) Card ability

Dauthi Trapper + Ember ShotLightning Bolt

CARD 18:

Which card is missing from this list?

Altar of Dementia, Cursed Rack, Nature's Will, Stone Rain

Thank you to Justin Sarnak and Andrew Potozniak for helping to test the puzzles.

Good luck working your way through the various puzzles, and feel free to compare your answers on the message boards. Check back here Wednesday morning, when the solutions will be revealed. Of course, you won't need my help for that, will you?

Until then, best of luck!

Think you've got it? Click here to reveal the solution!


1) Island

Cards include Island, Tropical Island, Island Sanctuary, Volcanic Island.

2) Mountain

This was printed in the same sets as every other basic land PLUS the infamous Arabian Nights Mountain.

3) Jackal Pup

A) 2/1


C) Tempest

4) Mogg Fanatic

A) Mogg. This matches Mogg Alarm, Mogg Cannon, and Mogg Assassin.

B) Fanatic. This is from the Monty Python 'Spanish Inquisition' sketch. The inquisitors' weapons were “fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.” Of the words in “an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope”, only fanatic matches any Mogg cards from clue A.

5) Grim Lavamancer.

Every other 'Grim' card is listed.

6) Underworld Dreams

This is the only card from Legends or Chronicles with in its cost that is still Extended legal.

A) Commander Greven il-Vec or Cateran Overlord (both ). The creatures in the list exactly die to the next creature without surviving (ie: the 5/3 kills the 2/5 in combat without a point of damage to spare, the 3/6 kills the 5/3, etc.) There are several 4/7 creatures to come next in the series, and two 7/5 creatures. There are currently no 5/8 creatures, however, so either of the two 7/5's would be the end of the series.

B) Chromium (Legends or Chronicles). Chromium is the next element in the periodic table, descending. Yes, Mangara's Blessing was intentionally misspelled.

7) City of Brass

A) Brass Herald. The cards are in decreasing order by set and collector number. This one is collector number 133 in Apocalypse.

B) Rath's Edge (land)

8) Psychatog

This is the only Extended-legal card that meets the power/toughness criteria.

A) Haunting Apparition ()

B) Atog (1/2). The rest are functional reprints. This is an actual reprint.

9) Isochron Scepter

This is the only card with imprint that has a converted mana cost of 2.

A) Arcbound Ravager (). Notice that CARD 9 in the main puzzle is imprinted with Mana Leak. The other choices for this puzzle have a converted mana cost of 1, 8, and 9. There are no cards with imprint that have these CMC's.

10) Swamp

The only card that has been illustrated by both Brom and by Susan Van Camp is Swamp.

11) Cunning Wish

A) Matches Mana Short (this card and card 16 need to be solved simultaneously).

B) Any of the 5 'Wishes' (Burning Wish, Death Wish, Golden Wish, Living Wish, Cunning Wish). Chaos Orb was the inspiration for the two Unhinged cards, and Ring of Ma'ruf was the inspiration for the wishes.

12) Fire/Ice

The words in the first list match Fire, Ice, Shadow, and Lava. Blister removes Lava and Nether removes Shadow, leaving Fire and Ice.

13) Chrome Mox

A) Rust Elemental OR Malachite Golem (both Mirrodin).

B) Mox (the listed artists all created the art for one or more Moxes).

14) Boomerang

A) Dissipate (Richard Kane Ferguson). The parallel is that the second spell does the same as the first spell, but also removes the target from the game. The analogy is still not perfect. For example, the card could be Mana Drain, since Disintegrate is a souped-up version of Blaze, as Mana Drain is of Counterspell. Taking clue B into account, though, it's clearly Dissipate.

B) Counterspell ()

15) Chill

A) Ertai's Meddling ().

B) Circle of Protection: Shadow (Tempest, Enchantment, CMC of 2). The rest are misprinted cards.

16) Mana Short

A) Any card with 'Mana' in its title.

B) Circle of Protection: Blue (Dameon Willich). Only Mana Short/Cunning Wish and Mana Seism/Burning Wish both meet criteria A, and offer possible matches for CARD 11. Edward P. Beard, Jr. illustrated Mana Seism, but none of the Circles. Therefore the artist must be one of the artists of Mana Short. Dameon Willich illustrated both a version of Mana Short and a version of Circle of Protection: Blue.

17) Shadow Rift

Gain shadow + deal 3 damage + draw a card – deal 3 damage = gain shadow + draw a card.

18) Smother

The flavor text for all four cards contains the word "beg".

And the rest...

This is what the final puzzle will look like with all of the cards revealed. You do not in fact need to know all the cards to solve this puzzle – but you only get full credit if you managed to solve all of cards 1-18, too.

You are playing a match of Extended with your opponent, Scott. You have been racing up to this point, but Scott's sideboard tech, Underworld Dreams, threatens to kill you in short order. After drawing Cunning Wish for the turn, though, things are looking up. Your goal is to win this turn.

Scott (4 life)

In Play:

1 Jackal Pup
1 Mogg Fanatic
1 Grim Lavamancer
1 Underworld Dreams
3 City of Brass (tapped)
1 Mountain (tapped)

No relevant cards in hand / graveyard.

You (2 life)

In Play:

1 Psychatog
1 Isochron Scepter (imprinted with Mana Leak)
3 Island
1 Swamp

In Hand:

Cunning Wish
Chrome Mox


3 Islands

Other: Removed From Game / Sideboard:

Mana Short
Shadow Rift

How to Win

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